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Squadrons are the main form of flying unit of the Royal Air Force (RAF). These include Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) squadrons incorporated into the RAF when it was formed on 1 April 1918, during the First World War. Other squadrons of the RAF include those from Commonwealth air forces which have served within the RAF structure and squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm before it transferred to the Royal Navy in 1939.

Some squadrons have an individual tradition of presenting their squadron number in Roman numerals or using a suffix to their squadron number (such as "(F)" for "Fighter" or "(AC)" for "Army Co-operation") to indicate a past or present role. However, these practices have, at least in the past, been deprecated at higher levels.[1]

Contents

Regular RAF squadrons (Nos. 1-299)

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Nos. 1-50

Nos. 51-100

Nos. 101-150

Nos. 151-200

Nos. 201-250

The first squadrons to carry numbers above 200 were former RNAS squadrons that were renumbered upon amalgamation with 200 added to their RNAS squadron number. Independent flights of the RNAS were grouped together in squadrons and given numbers in the 200 series.

Nos. 251-299

American manned

Polish manned (Nos. 300-309)

See also Squadrons Nos. 315-318, 663 and Polish Fighting Team (under Other)

Czechoslovak manned

Note: the RAF never had a No. 314 Squadron, although they did use the number as No.314 Technical Services Unit. A proposed 314 Squadron was allocated squadron codes UY for the period April to September 1939.[3]

Polish manned (Nos. 315-318)

See also Squadrons Nos. 300-309, 663 and Polish Fighting Team (under Other)

Note: the RAF never had a No. 319 Squadron; the "Polish Fighting Team" was attached to No. 145 Fighter Squadron. A proposed 319 Squadron was allocated squadron codes VE for the period April to September 1939.[3]

Dutch manned

Note: Nos. 323 to 325 Squadrons were not formed, but allocated Squadron Codes GN, PQ and EA respectively for the period April to September 1939.[3] However these numbers were used for post-war Royal Netherlands Air Force squadrons.

French manned (Nos. 326-329)

See also Nos. 340-347 Squadron

Norwegian manned

Greek manned

Note: Nos: 337-339 never formed,[4] but were allocated Squadron Codes OK, ML and KN respectively for the period April to September 1939.[3] The Royal Hellenic Air Force 13th Light Bomber Squadron was also under RAF command in World War II.

French manned (Nos. 340-347)

See also Nos. 326-329 Squadron

Note: No. 348 Squadron was not formed,[5] but Squadron codes letters FR were allocated for the period April to September 1939.[3]

Belgian manned

Yugoslav manned

Regular RAF squadrons (Nos. 353-361)

Note: Nos. 362-399 Squadrons were not formed.[6]

Article XV squadrons of World War II

Under Article XV of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, the air forces of Australia, Canada and New Zealand formed squadrons for service under RAF operational control.

Royal Canadian Air Force

Note: Nos. 444 to 449 Squadrons were not formed. However these numbers were used for post-war Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons.

Royal Australian Air Force

Royal New Zealand Air Force

Royal Auxiliary Air Force squadrons (Nos. 500-509)

Formed as "Special Reserve" squadrons but absorbed into the Royal Auxiliary Air Force

Note: No. 505 to 509 Squadron allocated Squadron codes YF, FS, GX, DY and BQ respectively for the period April to September 1939, but never formed.[3]

Regular RAF squadrons (Nos. 510-598)

Note: No No. 599 Squadron seems to have been formed.[6] There were to been Reserve squadrons using numbers 551-566 which would have been created by adding 500 to existing Operational Training Unit designations.[7] In the event the plan was never put into effect, although there was some desultory use of some of the numbers by some of the OTUs for a short period. Despite their lack of formal activation, this block of numbers has never been re-allocated for use by other units.

Royal Auxiliary Air Force squadrons (Nos. 600-616)

Note: No. 606 (Chiltern) Squadron was allocated Squadron codes BG for the period April to September 1939, but was not formed.[3] A non-flying No. 606 Helicopter Support Squadron of the RAuxAF was later formed in 1999.[8]

Regular RAF squadrons (Nos. 617-650)

Note: Nos. 629, 632-634, 636-638 and 645-649 were never formed, [9] but some were allocated Squadron codes for the period April to September 1939 - 629 (LQ), 632 (LO), 636 (VZ), 637 (UK), 638 (PZ), 645 (KF), 646 (YG), 647 (ZS), 648 (YT) and 649 (HA). [3] However a fictitious "633 Squadron" was featured in the eponymous novel and film. Also, RAF Volunteer Gliding Squadrons (formerly Volunteer Gliding Schools until 2005) have been numbered in the range 611 to 671 since 1955.

Air Observation Post squadrons

These squadrons were formed during the Second World War to perform artillery spotting and liaison roles, in co-operation with Army units. Most AOP squadron aircrew were provided by the Army. Nos. 661-664 and 666 Squadron were re-formed as Royal Auxiliary Air Force units in 1949. Nos. 651, 652 and 656 Squadron were transferred to the Army Air Corps in 1957.[10]

Regular RAF squadrons (Nos. 667-695)

Note: Nos. 693-694 and 696-699 Squadrons were never formed.[9]

Fleet Air Arm squadrons

While still under the control of the RAF, flights of the Fleet Air Arm were organized into squadrons with numbers in the 700 and 800 range. The range 700 to 750 had been previously used for Fleet Air Arm Catapult Flight numbers.[11]

  • No. 712 Squadron
  • No. 715 Squadron
  • No. 718 Squadron

These squadrons were transferred to the Royal Navy in 1939, becoming Naval Air Squadrons (NAS).[12] The 700 and 800 range of squadron numbers continued to be used by the Royal Navy for newly-formed Naval Air Squadrons.

Balloon squadrons

Squadron numbers from 901 to 999 were allocated to barrage balloon units of the Auxiliary Air Force's Balloon Command. All the numbers were used.[13] Examples of such squadrons are:

  • No. 902 Squadron RAF (County of London Balloon, Auxiliary Air Force)
  • No. 903 Squadron RAF (County of London Balloon, Auxiliary Air Force)
  • No. 909 Squadron RAF (County of Essex Balloon, Auxiliary Air Force)
  • No. 918 Squadron RAF (County of Derby Balloon, Auxiliary Air Force)
  • No. 945 Squadron RAF (City of Glasgow Balloon, Auxiliary Air Force)

Others

Squadron codes

From 1939 before the Second World War to the early 1950s, squadrons of the RAF used two letter codes to identify its aircraft. They were usually painted on the sides of the plane to the left of the roundel; a third letter after the roundel identified the individual aircraft within the squadron.[14][15] During the period April to September, many such codes were provisionally allocated for future squadrons, many of which were, in the event, never formed.[3]

Notes and references

  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth 1918-1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Jefford, C.G. RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1988 (second edition 2001). ISBN 1-85310-053-6.

See also

External links


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